For the second time in less than a year, the Capitals find themselves in the uncomfortable position of learning a new system under a new head coach, the third in just two seasons. If anything has proven consistent in their first two outings, it’s the level of confusion at all corners of the ice.
“Personally I almost feel like a fish out of water right now,” defenseman Karl Alzner admitted after Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss at home. “I'm too busy trying to be in the right position mentally instead of just being there. I know where to be. I'm over-thinking it. I think a lot of guys are probably in the same boat.”
Alzner, the crux of Washington’s defense, found himself on the ice for three of the Jets’ four tallies. Braden Holtby, named AHL Goaltender of the Month earlier in January, ended the night with a whopping 5.04 goals against average. Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals’ new right winger, spent the evening drifting left, where he’s spent the last seven years on Verizon Center ice.
Ovechkin said after the game that he felt fine, but admitted he needed more time to make the adjustment to his new position.
“We know what we have to do,” said Ovechkin. “We watch the video. Everybody have to know where exactly we have to be but sometimes we keep the puck too long on our sticks, sometimes we just make a bad decision in the neutral zone and it cost us the game and cost us our chances.”
Ovechkin picked up his first, and only, point of the season by setting up an eventual Matt Hendricks goal in the first period. Unfortunately, taking an early lead did little to keep the energy level high on the Caps’ bench as the club lolled through four consecutive goals against in two periods.
“When you get tired your decision making goes -that's the first thing,” said right winger Troy Brouwer. “Your brain starts to get lazy and then everything else follows. We're having a tough time with just being crisp, being sharp. Whether that's just practice, whether that's out of practice, whether that's just us not paying attention to details, we gotta crack that and we gotta crack it fast.”
Alzner agreed. For a team with this many athletic and skilled bodies, the Capitals haven’t shown it on the ice, and the blueliner wasn’t willing to blame the new system.
“There's system stuff and there's hard work stuff,” said Alzner. “Tonight, even if we had breakdowns in the system, we should be able to fix that with hard work and tonight we weren't able to do that.
“We can blame learning a system as long as we want but it's us now. It's not learning a system. It's us that's gotta fix it.”